Zoey Prokopiak, a Slippery Rock University computational biophysics major, won first place for her poster in the Cellular and Molecular Biology category of the American Association for Advancement of Science Conference.
Prokopiak's accomplishment followed 18 months of research with Carolyn Steglich, SRU professor of biology.
For her winning paper, "Cooperative Effects of Hydrogen Bonds in Protein Structure Prediction," Prokopiak received a cash prize, one-year membership to the AAAS and will be recognized in a spring issue of Science.
Prokopiak's student-faculty research at SRU earned her acceptance into the Research Experience for Undergraduates Program at North Carolina.
The poster detailed the outcomes of her research at the University of North Carolina last summer. Prolopiak looked at a software suite known as "Rosetta" that predicts how proteins fold and shape themselves in order to assume their functional structure.
Proteins are some of the most complicated molecules currently known and their shape is crucial to understanding what they do in our bodies, which ranges from protecting us from disease (antibodies) to enzyme activity. Misfolded proteins cause many diseases, including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
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